How is the British public reacting to the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions?

On July 19 2021, the UK Government lifted the majority of Covid-19 restrictions. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has been investigating the social impact of this change in their regular bulletins.

We asked our participant pool some similar questions (and some new ones). We launched the study to a representative sample of 3000 UK residents on August 9th 2021. The sample was balanced based on age, sex, and ethnicity, taking around 24 hours to complete.

Highlights

  • 20% of participants think life will never go back to how it was before the pandemic.
  • Just over 50% of participants think there will be another lockdown in 2021.
  • Almost 90% of participants will continue to wear a mask in public spaces (e.g. in shops).
  • More people plan to self-isolate if they have Covid symptoms now that restrictions have ended. (~80% vs ~60% before restrictions ended).

Insights

Will people maintain their lockdown behaviour?

We asked participants whether they will change their behaviour now that restrictions have eased. Two of the key measures promoted by the UK Government during the lockdown period were: (i) wearing masks in public and (ii) social distancing from people not in your household.

We found that 88% of respondents will continue wearing a mask in public spaces, with 75% of people believing it helps to slow the spread of Covid. 69% of participants will continue social distancing from people not in their household, with 73% believing it slows the spread of Covid.

In addition to these two key behaviours, we asked about a wide range of other measures. The aim was to compare how participants behaved during lockdown vs how they behaved now that restrictions have eased.

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As expected, there is a substantial drop in most behaviours, but surprisingly, people with Covid symptoms are more likely to self isolate now that restrictions have eased. We believe that personal responsibility is the most likely explanation for this behaviour. People may perceive there to be a greater chance of passing Covid on (due to lack of social distancing, mandatory mask-wearing, etc) and are therefore being more careful when they have symptoms.

We can also draw an interesting comparison between individual and social behaviours. For example, we see continued intent to wear a mask in public, sanitise hands and self-isolate. These are independent behaviours. On the other hand, far more participants intend to see more people and engage in social activities now that restrictions have eased. In essence, we are seeing a desire to socialise whilst continuing personal precautions.

Finally, we asked participants how they felt about the relaxation of restrictions. 70% of Prolific respondents felt moderately worried to very worried about the lifting of restrictions. We will see further evidence of this sense of unease later in the report.

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Are people ready to travel abroad?

International travel ground to a halt at the end of 2020 and many countries are eager to welcome tourists again; but are the public ready to go?

Our data suggests they are not. 75% of Prolific respondents said they had no intention to travel abroad in the near future. We also asked how clear they found government guidance on international travel restrictions. Only 3% said the guidance was completely clear, with 65% stating that it was slightly unclear or not clear at all.

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Life after the restrictions

During the roadmap briefings, the UK Prime Minister insisted that the easing of Covid-19 restrictions would be an ‘irreversible’ process. In a later statement, he added that the government 'will place a strengthened emphasis on guidance and do everything possible to avoid reimposing restrictions with all the costs that they bring'.

We asked participants whether they expect another lockdown in the UK in 2021. The responses were very balanced, with a minor swing of 51% saying yes. 2020's open summer and locked down winter may be responsible for the concern.

Finally, we asked participants 'When do you think we will return to life as it was before the pandemic?'. 21% of people responded with 'never'. The majority (59%) stated that they expect things to return to normality in 1 year or more.

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Thanks for reading! If you'd like to run your own analysis, you can find the raw data for this study here.

We're looking to launch more research like this on our blog and we'd love to partner up with researchers around the world. Do you have an idea that you'd like to explore with data? Let us know at info@prolific.co.

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